Karl Jenkins

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Karl Jenkins
Jenkins in 2016
Jenkins in 2016
Background information
Birth nameKarl William Pamp Jenkins
Born (1944-02-17) 17 February 1944 (age 79)
Penclawdd, Gower, Wales
OriginSwansea, Wales
  • Composer
  • musician
  • Keyboards
  • oboe
  • saxophone
Years active1970–present
Formerly of

Sir Karl William Pamp Jenkins[1] CBE (born 17 February 1944) is a Welsh multi-instrumentalist and composer. His best known works include the song "Adiemus" and the Adiemus album series; Palladio; The Armed Man; and his Requiem.

Jenkins was educated in music at Cardiff University and the Royal Academy of Music: of the latter, he is a fellow and an Associate. He joined the jazz-rock band Soft Machine in 1972 and became the group's lead songwriter in 1974. Jenkins continued to work with Soft Machine up to 1984, but has not been involved with any incarnation of the group since. Jenkins has composed music for advertisement campaigns and has won the industry prize twice.

Karl Jenkins at the Welsh Government's St David Awards; 2015

Early life and education[edit]

Karl Jenkins was born and raised in Penclawdd, Gower, Wales. His mother was Swedish, and his father was Welsh. Jenkins received his initial musical instruction from his father, who was the local schoolteacher, chapel organist and choirmaster. He attended Gowerton Grammar School.[2]

Jenkins studied music at Cardiff University, and then commenced postgraduate studies in London at the Royal Academy of Music.[3]

Career overview[edit]

Early career: Graham Collier's group and Nucleus[edit]

For the bulk of his early career Jenkins was known as a jazz and jazz-rock musician, playing baritone and soprano saxophones, keyboards and oboe, an unusual instrument in a jazz context. He joined jazz composer Graham Collier's group and later co-founded the jazz-rock group Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970.

Soft Machine[edit]

In 1972 he joined the Canterbury progressive rock band Soft Machine. The group played venues including The Proms, Carnegie Hall, and the Newport Jazz Festival. The album Six, on which Jenkins first played with Soft Machine, won the Melody Maker British Jazz Album of the Year award in 1973. Jenkins also won the miscellaneous musical instrument section (as he did the following year). Soft Machine was voted best small group in the Melody Maker jazz poll of 1974. The albums in which Jenkins performed and composed were Six, Seven (1973), Bundles (1975), Softs (1976) and Land of Cockayne (1981). Jenkins composed most of the tracks on Seven and nearly all of the tracks on the subsequent three albums.

After Mike Ratledge left the band in 1976, Soft Machine did not include any of its founding members, but kept recording on a project basis with line-ups revolving around Jenkins and drummer John Marshall. Although Melody Maker had positively reviewed the Soft Machine of 1973 and 1974, Hugh Hopper, involved with the group since replacing bassist Kevin Ayers in 1968, cited Jenkins's "third rate" musical involvement in his own decision to leave the band,[4] and the band of the late 1970s has been described by band member John Etheridge as wasting its potential.[5]

Other works[edit]

In November 1973, Jenkins and Ratledge participated in a live-in-the-studio performance of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells for the BBC.[6] It is available on Oldfield's Elements DVD.

Jenkins has created advertising music, twice winning the industry prize in that field. From the 1980s, he developed a relationship with Bartle Bogle Hegarty, starting with composing musics for their Levi's jeans "Russian" series. He composed a classical theme used by De Beers diamond merchants for their television advertising campaign focusing on jewellery worn by people otherwise seen only in silhouette. Jenkins later included this as the title track in a compilation called Diamond Music, and eventually created Palladio, using it as the theme of the first movement. Other arrangements have included advertisements for the Renault Clio.

As a composer, his breakthrough came with the crossover project Adiemus. Jenkins has conducted the Adiemus project in Japan, Germany, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, and Belgium, as well as London's Royal Albert Hall and Battersea Power Station. The Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary (1995) album topped the classical album charts. It spawned a series of successors, each revolving around a central theme. In 2014 Jenkins released a tribute song for the 2014 Winter Olympics, performed by his new age music group also called Adiemus.[7]

Jenkins was the first international composer and conductor to conduct the University of Johannesburg Kingsway Choir led by Renette Bouwer, during his visit to South Africa as the choir performed his The Armed Man: A mass for peace together with a 70-piece orchestra.

Jenkins' choral work The Peacemakers was first performed in New York City's Carnegie Hall on 16 January 2012. Jenkins conducted from the podium.[citation needed] The seventeen-movement piece features extracts from religious texts and works by notable humanitarians. A recording was released on 26 March 2012; it features the London Symphony Orchestra and several choirs, as well as guest vocalists and instrumentalists. Additional concerts in the UK and US took place later in the year.[8][non-primary source needed]

Album cover of The Bards of Wales (2012)

The lyrics was written by a 19th Century great Hungarian Poet: Arany Janos, titled "A Walesi Bardok". The album cover is reflecting the Hungarian Title and the name of the Poet.

Jenkins composed the music for the 2012 BBC Wales series The Story of Wales presented by Huw Edwards.[9]

A work entitled The Healer – A Cantata For St Luke was premiered on 16 October 2014 (7:30 pm) in St Luke's Church, Grayshott, Hampshire, and was recorded and broadcast on Classic FM.[10] The Healer received its US premiere at Carnegie Hall, New York on 19 January 2015. In September 2015, the recording of the premiere of The Healer was released on CD by Warner Classics as part of the 8-disc boxed set Voices.

A compilation CD Still with the Music was also released in September 2015, coinciding with the publication of his autobiography of the same name.

On 8 October 2016 Jenkins' choral work Cantata Memoria: For the children, a response to the 1966 Aberfan disaster with a libretto by Mererid Hopwood and commissioned by S4C, premiered at the Wales Millennium Centre. The concert was broadcast the following evening on S4C and was released as an album by Deutsche Grammophon.[11][12]

Musical style[edit]


Many of the songs written by Jenkins have specifically-written phonetic lyrics, but they are not in any language.[13] Instead, they are syllables intended to have a musical effect, but not to carry any specific meaning.[13] This glossolalia is similar to the sounds of "scat singing", except that this latter artform sometimes emphasises of-the-moment improvisation as well.[14]

The composer has said the lyrics to his "Adiemus" series of songs are in "an invented language", and have no particular meaning.[13] He has observed, "The text was written phonetically with the words viewed as instrumental sound, the idea being to maximise the melisma by removing the distraction, if one can call it that, of words”.[13] Some listeners compare his lyrics to the Latin language, but other critics discount such a connection.[15]

Other songs he has written use Biblical or literary texts for the lyrics.

Awards and achievements[edit]

Jenkins holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Wales. He has been made both a fellow and an associate of the Royal Academy of Music, and a room has been named in his honour. He also has had fellowships at Cardiff University (2005),[16] the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Trinity College Carmarthen, and Swansea Metropolitan University.

In 2008 Jenkins' The Armed Man was listed as No. 1 in Classic FM's "Top 10 by living composers".[17]

He was awarded an honorary doctorate in music from the University of Leicester, the Chancellor's Medal from the University of Glamorgan and honorary visiting professorships at Thames Valley University, London College of Music and the ATriUM, Cardiff.

Jenkins was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2005 New Year Honours and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 Birthday Honours.[1][18] In 2015 he was made a Knight Bachelor.[19]

Jenkins is joint president of the British Double Reed Society[20] and Patron of the International Schools Choral Music Society (ISCMS).

In 2016 Jenkins received the BASCA Gold Badge Award for his unique contribution to music.[21]


With Graham Collier[edit]

The Graham Collier Septet
The Graham Collier Sextet
  • Down Another Road (1969) Piano, oboe. Karl composed Lullaby For A Lonely Child, John Marshall on drums.
  • Workpoints (2005) - Karl, soprano and baritone sax
  • Deep Dark Blue Centre / Portraits / The Alternate Mosaics (2008) 2 CD - With Alan Wakeman, John Marshall, Harold Beckett, Kenny Wheeler.
  • Relook : Graham Collier 1937-2011: A Memorial 75th Birthday Celebration (2012) With John Marshall, Nick Evans, Gary Burton, Frank Ricotti, Roy Babbington, Kenny Wheeler, Alan Wakeman etc.

With Neil Ardley – Don Rendell – Ian Carr[edit]

  • Greek Variations & Other Aegean Exercises (1970) - With Jack Bruce, Jeff Clyne, Roy Babbington, John Marshall, Barbara Thompson, etc.

With Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber[edit]

With Nucleus[edit]

  • Elastic Rock (1970) - Chris Spedding on guitar, John Marshall on drums, album cover by Roger Dean.
  • We'll Talk About It Later (1971)
Ian Carr with Nucleus
  • Solar Plexus (1971)
  • Direct Hits (1976)
  • Elastic Rock / We'll Talk About It Later (1994) 2 CD
  • Solar Plexus / Belladonna (2002) 2 CD
  • Alleycat / Direct Hits (2004) 2 CD

With Elton John[edit]

With The Chitinous Ensemble[edit]

With Barry Guy/The London Jazz Composers' Orchestra[edit]

  • Ode (1972) - Karl Oboe and soprano and baritone sax Marc Charig on bugle, Alan Wakeman on tenor and soprano saxes, future Soft Machine and cousin of Rick Wakeman.

With Soft Machine[edit]

Albums studio
  • Six (1973) - Karl keyboards and horns, Mike Ratledge keyboards, Hugh Hopper bass, John Marshall drums
  • Seven (1973) - Same except Roy Babbington replaced Hopper on bass.
  • Bundles (1975) - Allan Holdsworth on guitar. Last album on guitar. Last album with Mike Ratledge.
  • Softs (1976) - Alan Wakeman on saxes. Karl only plays keyboards.
  • Rubber Riff (1976) - Originally an album for libraries providing "modern rock music featuring keyboards and guitar" composed by Karl Jenkins. Reissued as "Soft Machine" or "Karl Jenkins's Soft Machine".
  • Land of Cockayne (1981) - Latest Soft Machine album of that era: Karl keyboards, John Taylor electric piano Fender Rhodes, Allan Holdsworth and Alan Parker guitars, Jack Bruce bass, Ray Warleigh sax and flute, Dick Morrissey tenor sax, John Marshall drums + backing vocals.
Live albums
  • Alive & Well: Recorded in Paris (1978) - Karl keyboards, John Etheridge guitar, Steve Cook bass, John Marshall drums, Rick Sanders violin.
  • BBC Radio 1971 - 1974 (2003)
  • British Tour '75 (2005)
  • Floating World Live (2006) - Recorded in 1975 on Radio Brennen in Germany.
  • NDR Jazz Workshop (2010) CD + DVD
  • Switzerland 1974 (2015) CD + DVD
  • Triple Echo (1977) - Available on vinyl on a triple album. Karl on the last 4 pieces.
  • The Untouchable (1990)
  • As If... (1991) - Contains songs from the Third , Fourth , Fifth & Sixth albums.
  • Softs / Alive And Well (Recorded In Paris) / Bundles (1992) - 3 CD
  • The Best Of Soft Machine - The Harvest Years (1995)
  • De Wolfe Sessions (2002) - Presented as Karl Jenkins' Soft Machine.
  • MP3 Collection (2003) - Contains albums Volume One (The Soft Machine) to Rubber Riff + At the beginning https://www.discogs.com/fr/Soft-Machine-MP3-Collection/release/7018262
  • Six + Seven (2004) - 2 CD
  • Out-Bloody-Rageous An Anthology 1967-1973 (2005) - 2 CD
  • Tales Of Taliesin (The EMI Years Anthology 1975-1981) (2010) - 2 CD
  • Original Album Classics (2010) - Contains albums from Third to Seven.

With Mike Oldfield[edit]

  • Tubular Bells - BBC 1973 - Recorded live in studio for the BBC in November 1973 and released in 1993. Available on DVD Elements - The Best of Mike Oldfield.
  • Music of the spheres (2008) - Karl Jenkins; orchestrations, string direction and production.

With Planet Earth[edit]

  • Planet Earth - Avec Mike Ratledge, Tristan Fry, etc. (1978)

With Plaza[edit]

  • Plaza - With Mike Thorne and Mike Ratledge. (1979)

With Rollercoaster[edit]

  • Wonderin' - With Mike Ratledge, Dick Morrisey, Ray Warleigh, etc. (1980)

With Mike Ratledge[edit]

  • Cuts For Commercials Volume 3 (1981)
  • For Christmas, For Children (1981)
  • Movement (2010)
  • Some Shufflin' (2010)

With JAR[edit]

  • Only You/Ballad From An Unmade Movie - Single from The Projet Jenkins Aspery Ratledge, JAR (1988)

With Kiri Te Kanawa[edit]

  • Kiri Sings Karl (2006) - Karl orchestration and production.


Studio albums
  • Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary (1995) - With Mike Ratledge on drums programming and production.
  • Adiemus II: Cantata Mundi (1997)
  • Adiemus III: Dances of Time (1998)
  • Adiemus IV: The Eternal Knot (2001)
  • Adiemus Live (2001)
  • Adiemus V: Vocalise (2003)
  • Adiemus Colores (2013)
  • Symphonic Adiemus (2017)


  • Diamond Music (1996) - Karl Jenkins/The London Philharmonic/The Smith Quartet.
  • The Best Of Adiemus - The Journey (1999)
  • The Essential Collection (2006)
  • The Very Best of Karl Jenkins (2011) - 2 CD
  • Adiemus The Collection (2013) - Coffret 6 CD
  • Still With The Music (The Album) (2015)
  • Voices - 8-CD boxset including the premiere of The Healer – A Cantata for St Luke. (2015)
  • The Very Best of Karl Jenkins (2019)

Film score[edit]

  • River Queen - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007)

Other works[edit]

  • Nomination (1976) - Karl Jenkins/Peter Milray
  • Topsy Turvy (1986) - Karl Jenkins/Jack Trombey
  • Merry Christmas to the World (1995) - Collection of traditional Christmas carols orchestrated by Karl Jenkins (In Adiemus Style).
  • Palladio (1996)
  • Eloise (1997) - Opéra
  • Imagined Oceans (1998)
  • New Music From Karl Jenkins (1998) - Sampler.
  • Harmonia - Le Chant Des Rêves (1998) - Compilation with Mike Oldfield et Vangelis.
  • Dewi Sant (1999)
  • The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace (1999)
  • Over the Stone (2002) - Concerto for two harps.
  • Crossing the Stone (2003)
  • Ave Verum (2004)
  • Quirk (2004)
  • La Folia (2004)
  • In These Stones Horizons Sing (2004)
  • Requiem (2005)
  • River Queen (2005) - Original film score River Queen by New Zealand director Vincent Ward.
  • Tlep (2006)
  • This Land of Ours (2007) - With Cory Band and Cantorion
  • Sarikiz (2008)
  • Stabat Mater (2008)
  • Quirk - The Concertos (2008) - This album is a Compilation of Concertos by the composer that were previously commercially unavailable. These are: "Over the Stone" (2002), La Folia (2004), Quirk (2004) and also includes new concerto "Sarikiz" (2008).
  • Stella Natalis (2009)
  • Gloria / Te Deum (2010) - With Hayley Westenra
  • The Bards of Wales (2011)
  • Motets (2014)
  • Cantata Memoria (2016) - In tribute to the victims (116 children and 28 adults) of the Aberfan disaster, on October 21, 1966.
  • Songs Of Mercy And Redemption (2019)
  • Piano (2019)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "No. 59446". The London Gazette (Supplement). 12 June 2010. p. 7.
  2. ^ "Alumni: Karl Jenkins". Cardiff University School of Music. Archived from the original on 22 February 2015. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Karl Jenkins: Biography". Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  4. ^ Soft Machine: Out-Bloody-Rageous, Graham Bennett, 2008 (ISBN 0-946719-84-5) p. 246.
  5. ^ Soft Machine: Out-Bloody-Rageous, Graham Bennett, 2008 (ISBN 0-946719-84-5) p. 324.
  6. ^ Mike Oldfield. "Second House: Tubular Bells". Memorable TV. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  7. ^ Olsen, John P. (8 January 2014). "Olympic Tribute Song by Adiemus". New Age Music World.
  8. ^ "Warner releases world-premiere recording of The Healer as part of 'Still With the Music' collection". Karl Jenkins.
  9. ^ "The Story of Wales". IMDb. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Grayshott Concerts: World Premier of "The Healer – A Cantata for St Luke" by Karl Jenkins". grayshott.com. 2014. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  11. ^ Thomas, Geraint (7 October 2016). "Aberfan: Sir Karl Jenkins' choral memorial to disaster". BBC. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Elin Manahan Thomas and Karl Jenkins perform Aberfan memorial". southwales-eveningpost.co.uk. 8 October 2016. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  13. ^ a b c d Roberts, Maddy Shaw (5 May 2021). "The meaning behind the lyrics to 'Adiemus' by Karl Jenkins". Classic FM. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  14. ^ Childed, Serg (4 April 2021). "The meaningless song lyrics of Adiemus". MusicTales. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  15. ^ Barone, Brian (3 October 2016). "An Aural History of "Adiemus"". The Awl. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  16. ^ "Cardiff University: Alumni". Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  17. ^ "Top 10 by living composers". classicfm.co.uk. 2008. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  18. ^ "Special Reports". Channel 4 News.
  19. ^ Metro, 13 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2015
  20. ^ "About the BDRS". British Double Reed Society. 24 February 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2009.
  21. ^ Daniel Gumble (4 October 2016). "BASCA Gold Badge Award winners revealed". Music Week. Retrieved 2 July 2018.

External links[edit]